How White was caught in crossfire

Jake White was caught in the South African rugby crossfire during a bitter and ongoing power struggle of which he was the latest high-profile victim, the Saturday Star said on Saturday.

This has emerged in his much-anticipated autobiography, In Black and White, which hits bookstores soon.

The writing was on the wall for the World Cup-winning coach when his request for an extension of his contract until 2009 was turned down by the South African Rugby Union’s (Saru) president’s council, the book says.

The request was approved “with qualifications” by the professional board of SA Rugby earlier this year, but was reportedly then thrown out by the amateur provincial president who effectively runs the game.

White’s problems are said to have begun much earlier when his most powerful ally, former Saru president Brian van Rooyen, was drummed out of the game in February last year after accusations of breaching certain corporate governance regulations.

Van Rooyen’s departure ushered in the mild-mannered Oregan Hoskins, but more importantly, it left White without a buffer against Mike Stofile—his most bitter critic, the Saturday Star reported.

Stofile, who made it known that he was “no fan” of White, chairs a nine-man committee that will elect the next Springbok coach. He reportedly invited Andre Markgraaff, also a fan of White and another high-profile victim of the power struggle, to join him on that committee.

White’s autobiography also claims that Stofile wants Markgraaff back in the game’s administration.

“Not for a million rand a day would I go back!” he told the newspaper on Friday.

Markgraaff and White famously fell out in 2005 before a Test match against the All Blacks when it was claimed that Markgraaff, then Saru deputy president, threatened to fire White over a selection issue.

White’s subsequent letter of complaint to Saru about Markgraaff’s behaviour was leaked to influential rugby journalists who portrayed the deputy president as the “bad guy” of rugby.

Last year, Markgraaff resigned, but his name continues to pop up, the report said.

In an interview published in the Saturday Star, former Springbok coach Nick Mallet reportedly said: “There is a strong clique, pushed by Mike Stofile, that appears to be very anti-Jake. It is not difficult to figure out where it all started—Stofile is close to Andre Markgraaff, who despite what he may say publicly, remains extremely influential behind the scenes.”—Sapa

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